…he answered questions instead of reverting to points
What debate were you watching? Let's start with:
1:39, the question is: "Do you want to give students the chances previous generations had?". Key launches into his irrelevant talking point about education standards.
5:30, the question is: "If education is free, why do parents have to pay?". Key launches into his irrelevant talking point about bureaucrats. Sainsbury presses him to answer the question: does that mean he plans to get rid of compulsory donations by cutting red tape in Wellington? Nope: "Of course they'll have to pay" — apparently Key thinks that's a good thing as long as parents can afford it.
4:38, the question is: "Are you calling Dr. Sharples a liar?". Key doesn't directly answer, saying "I've never given that assurance". Taurima presses: "Who's telling the truth here?". John ignores him, and launches into an irrelevant talking point about how he is able to work with minor parties. After the third question ("Can we clear this up?…Did you or didn't you?"), Key finally gives an explanation.
12:15, the question is: "Are you willing to do anything [to win this election]?". Key doesn't answer, and launches into a talking point: "New Zealand needs to change".
There's more to it that just these few instances. The worst was probably when Key was given a question about low to middle income families, and then started talking about the independent earner rebate. Hello? There's a reason it's called the independent earner rebate, and Key's response was blatant question-dodging.
There was Key using wrong figures for Kiwisaver membership. A quarter, he said. BZZT. The maths is simple. 812,018 members, 2,126,200 people employed. That's 38%. Clark corrected him: she said a third.
Clark was pretty bad in this department too. She mentioned the average household wage in the context of tax cuts; tax is computed on a per-income basis, so household wage figures are misleading. Given that Labour's tax cuts are so much better than National's for low to middle income earners, I would have thought she'd have been more careful.
I don't think the debate was good for Key or Clark. Head to head means interesting television, sure. But I think it means bad manners and squabbling. With a few more people, there's a danger of someone taking the high road, so everyone is more restrained.